Tuesday, December 31, 2013


If you and I want the coming year to be marked by a very real newness within, we would do well to review some of the ancient practices which good people have found to be helpful over the centuries.  I pastored in Green Bay,Wisconsin during part of the period that Vince Lombardi was coaching the Packers to football immortality.  Mr. Lombardi was often asked about trick plays and the secrets of coaching; he always answered that it was simply a matter of blocking and tackling.  There were no new, clever ideas that really mattered unless one mastered the fundamentals of the game.
I've concluded that the same thing is true of the spiritual life.  Books, retreats, and religious conferences are constantly promising us some new formula for spiritual vitality.  Some of them may stimulate us for a time.  But in the end, we'll need to come back to "blocking and tackling" -- such basic matters as Bible reading, prayer, group worship and sharing, and good devotional reading.
-- J. Ellsworth Kalas in Reading the Signs

Monday, December 30, 2013


In spite of the many benefits God has blessed us with, how many times do we complain about little difficulties and trials? We lose sight of the big picture and fail to appreciate the really important things. Just as we cannot benefit from a wrapped gift under a Christmas tree until we open it, so gratitude can be seen as our way of opening the gift of God's love intended by all the small and big positive events of our lives.

-- Ronda De Sola Chervin



Friday, December 27, 2013


If there is no cross in the manger,
there is no Christmas.

If the Babe doesn’t become the Adult,
there is no Bethlehem star.

If there is no commitment in us,
there are no wise men searching.

If we offer no cup of cold water,
there is no gold, no frankincense, no myrrh.

If there is no praising God’s name,
there are no angels singing.

If there is no spirit of alleluia,
there are no shepherds watching.

If there is no standing up, no speaking out, no risk,
there is no Herod, no flight into Egypt.

If there is no room in our inn,
then “Merry Christmas” mocks the Christ Child,
and the Holy Family is just a holiday card,
and God will loathe our feasts and festivals.

For if there is no reconciliation,
we cannot call Christ “Prince of Peace”.

If there is no goodwill towards others,
it can all be packed away in boxes for another year.

If there is no forgiveness in us,
there is no cause for celebration.

If we cannot go even now unto Golgotha,
there is no Christmas in us.

If Christmas is not now,
If Christ is not born into the everyday present,
then what is all the noise about?
-- Ann Weems in Kneeling in Bethlehem

Thursday, December 26, 2013


Each year the Child is born again.
Each year some new heart
finally hears
finally sees
finally knows love.
And in heaven
there is great rejoicing!
There is a festival of stars!
There is a celebration among the angels!
For in the finding of one lost sheep,
the heart of the shepherd is glad, and
Christmas has happened once more.
The Child is born anew
and one more knee is bowed! 

-- Ann Weems in Kneeling in Bethlehem


Tuesday, December 24, 2013


“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all.” (Titus 2:11)

Theologically speaking, grace is a shorthand way of talking about God’s unmerited favor, God’s love, patience, forgiveness, and peace offered to us as gift that appeared in a manger in Bethlehem. That gift was a voluntary offering of God who, in Christ, “gave Himself for us” (Titus 2:14). Grace is not only a theological concept but a God-embodied example that enables us to be redeemed from the guilt of our sin and embrace the hope of salvation that God has promised us…

God’s grace is not just a nice gift to be opened and then shelved until we need it; instead it is designed to be used, to transform us so we can in turn transform the world. God’s grace comes to us as a gift, but it is a gift we also pass on to someone else.

-- Robert Kaylor in Come to the Manger


Friday, December 20, 2013


"[The world's in] darkness,'' said Pastor Knute Larson. "But Christ came to bring light. He doesn't make us accept the light. He just offers it to anyone who honestly calls out for a Savior."

Larson said without Christ, our motives tend to be selfish, darkness lurks, and sins haunt us. We long for forgiveness, for hope, but we don't know where to look…

Most historians agree there was an actual Jesus. The debate is about His deity. Was He just a man, or was this the Son of God?

"It's the question we all face,'' said Larson. "I talked to a guy who recently gave his life to Christ. For years, he thought Jesus existed -- sort of like George Washington. But that it had nothing to do with him today. Jesus has everything to do with today, tomorrow and eternity. He came to rescue us spiritually. That's what [Christmas] is all about.'' 

-- Terry Pluto in the Akron Beacon Journal


Thursday, December 19, 2013


Often I stand on the edge of the light, afraid to believe, afraid to act, afraid that this story is too good to be true.

But then in my better moments, when I listen closely to the story, move closer to the light, my fears seem to evaporate like an early morning mist, and I can believe again.

I can believe that God who made all that is became clothed in our human flesh so that we might become clothed in God. I can believe that God claims me as a beloved child.  I can believe that my days are in God's strong and tender hands. I can believe that life is good, beautiful, and eternal. I can believe that not only my days but all days are in God's good and able hands.

I can believe, rejoice, and wait trustingly and expectantly for the unfolding of God's promise given in so many ways and most clearly in the Advent story.  Thanks be to God! 

-- Rueben P. Job in A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God  (Nashville, Tenn.: Upper Room Books, 2003, Used with permission)


Wednesday, December 18, 2013


According to Charles Wesley, reconciliation is… the message of Christmas:
            Hark the herald angels sing,
            “Glory to the newborn King;
            peace on earth, and mercy mild,
            God and sinners reconciled!”

Jesus came that we might be reconciled to God, and Paul states explicitly that God has called us to share in this ministry of reconciliation. However, there is a word of warning to all would-be reconcilers. True reconciliation is hard work. It takes commitment. It takes unswerving tenacity. The cost to God’s only Son was high. We should refuse to settle for cheap imitations. As Curtiss Paul DeYoung puts it, “Cheap reconciliation is unity without responsibility, forgiveness without repentance, equal treatment without restitution, harmony without liberation, conflict resolution without relational healing, peace without God.”
-- Kevin Baker in Hail the Heaven Born

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


“All right then, the Lord Himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a Son and will call Him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).”  (Isaiah 7:14)

The sign given to Ahaz was a mother who would give birth to a child named Immanuel, which means, “God with us.” Contemporary ears hear “Immanuel, God with us” so often this time of year that we forget its import. One should never assume that “God with us” means “God is on our side.” As the verses following verse 16 point out, “God with us” can mean “God coming with judgment as well as salvation.” The presence of the living and holy God is nothing to treat lightly. God’s holiness exposes our sin and disobedience. God’s light shines in our darkness and illuminates our frailty. God’s righteousness stands in stark contrast to our wickedness and rebellion.

-- Kevin Baker in Hail the Heaven Born


Wednesday, December 11, 2013


In spite of the many benefits God has blessed us with, how many times do we complain about little difficulties and trials? We lose sight of the big picture and fail to appreciate the really important things. Just as we cannot benefit from a wrapped gift under a Christmas tree until we open it, so gratitude can be seen as our way of opening the gift of God's love intended by all the small and big positive events of our lives. 

-- Ronda De Sola Chervin


Tuesday, December 10, 2013


To encounter Jesus is to take on the name of Christ. During a sermon preached at our congregation, Dr. William B. McClain, Professor of Preaching and Worship at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., told the story of meeting a South Korean tailor in Itwaewon, Seoul, named Smitty Lee. Dr. McClain asked whether the name "Smitty" was Korean, and the tailor told the story of his life being saved during the Korean War by an American soldier from Virginia who was called Smitty Ransom. The tailor further explained a rather familiar custom in that Asian culture, and summed it up in two simple sentences: "He saved my life. I took his name." That is indeed what happens when we encounter Jesus; He save our lives, and we take His name.

-- Zan W. Holmes, Jr. in Encountering Jesus


Friday, December 6, 2013


"When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" (John 8:12 NIV)

A candle gives light only by consuming itself. In this way, it becomes a vivid symbol of the sacrificial love of Christ. By giving of Himself and His own substance, Christ brought light and hope into this world.

-- Katrine Stewart


Thursday, December 5, 2013


"The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel" (which means 'God with us')."  (Matthew 1:23 NIV)

If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: "God with us." We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth!

-- John F. MacArthur, Jr.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Ministry involves a lot of building -- building  a community of faith, building programs to serve people, and even building  and maintaining physical buildings. We typically plunge ahead into that work, doing everything that seems good because we are ostensibly doing it for God. We think that a high level of activity and productivity is what God expects from us, so we work harder and go faster from Sunday to Sunday, program to program, and mission to mission. The result is often a deep and pervasive sense of cathedral fatigue. We want to do a lot of things for God, but here is the question: Have we bothered to ask God what God wants us to do?...

Someone once said that if you want to make God laugh, tell God your plans. God must get a kick out of all the grandiose plans we make for our lives and for our churches. We are so busy making plans for God that we often fail to listen for the plans that God is making for us. In many ways, prayer is more important than productivity.  That is the cure for cathedral fatigue.

-- Robert Kaylor in Come to the Manger


Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Thus says the LORD:
Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom,
do not let the mighty boast in their might,
do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth;
but let those who boast boast in this,
that they understand and know Me,
that I am the LORD;
I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth,
for in these things I delight, says the LORD.

-- Jeremiah 9:23,24 NRSV


Monday, December 2, 2013


One of the more puzzling and abnormal aspects of the Christmas season, at least to me, is that people seem to be over scheduled. Just try to put together a meeting or work on a project in December, and people have a ready response: “I’m just swamped getting ready for Christmas,” they say. “Let’s do that after the holidays.” I hear this from people who are church members as well as from people who are not. Apparently, Christmas is an equal opportunity exhauster.

Maybe people feel that way because we have not collectively done Advent well. Advent is supposed to be a time of waiting, reflection, and penitence. It is a time for us to sort through what is most important as we prepare for the coming of Christ. Rather than rushing around, Advent calls us to stop and consider who we are and what we are to be about.

-- Robert Kaylor in Come to the Manger


Wednesday, November 27, 2013


"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts." (Colossians 3:15-16)

God is not honored when we tell him what we think he wants to hear -- even though we don’t believe it. He knows better. He is honored (and we are healthiest) when our hearts and minds flow naturally with His. In this season, we do well to recognize that included in the flow is a heart-condition called thankfulness.

-- Ray Hollenbach


Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint. I can choose to be grateful when I am criticized, even when my heart still responds in bitterness. I can choose to speak about goodness and beauty, even when my inner eye still looks for someone to accuse or something to call ugly.

-- Henri Nouwen


Monday, November 25, 2013


Several years ago I offered the invocation for commencement exercises at a large state university.  I remember one unprogrammed event above everything else.  At a strategic point, the president of the university invited the graduating students to applaud their parents and spouses, in appreciation for helping them reach this wonderful day.  It was a moving moment.

The president might also have invited the students to applaud their professors and librarians, the authors of their textbooks and of journal articles, the people who preceded them in research, and the citizens whose taxes had paid most of the cost of their education.  It would be a long list -- and a gloomy one for any egotist who might have thought he or she was self-made.  Above all, the president could have invited the students to bow in gratitude to God, the Source of life, breath, health, and talent -- including the vast mines of talent that most of us never begin adequately to explore.

-- J. Ellsworth Kalas in If Experience Is Such a Good Teacher Why Do I Keep Repeating the Course?


Friday, November 22, 2013


NOTE: On this date 50 years ago, November 22, 1963, the following three influential men died -- English writer and humanist Aldous Huxley, U.S. President John F. Kennedy, and English author and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis. Today's SOUND BITES contains a quote from each.

Experience is not what happens to you; it's what you do with what happens to you. -- Aldous Huxley

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.  -- John F. Kennedy

The present is the only time in which any duty may be done or any grace received. -- C. S. Lewis


Thursday, November 21, 2013


During a children's sermon one Sunday morning, I held up an ugly-looking summer shirt that I wore occasionally around the house. I explained to the children that someone said the shirt was ugly and should be thrown away. "This really hurt me," I explained. "I'm having trouble forgiving the person who said those mean things. Do you think I should forgive that person?" I asked the children.

Immediately, my six-year-old daughter, Alicia, raised her hand. "Yes, you should," she said without hesitation.

"But why? The person hurt my feelings," I responded.

To which Alicia wisely answered, "Because you're married to her."

-- Glenn S. in ChristianityToday.com Connection


Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Prayer is the plumb line that finds its rest in the place where our hearts beat in rhythm with the heart of God. Scripture is the weight that propels the plumb line's fall.

-- Wendy M. Wright in Weavings Magazine, published by The Upper Room, Nashville, TN.   Used with permission.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013


It makes a great difference in our feelings towards others if their needs and their joys are on our lips in prayer; as also it makes a vast difference in their feelings towards us if they know that we are in the habit of praying for them.  There is no chasm in society that cannot be firmly and permanently bridged by intercession; there is no feud or dislike that cannot be healed by the same exercise of love.

-- Charles H. Brent (1862-1929)


Monday, November 18, 2013


Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself.  Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them -- every day begin the task anew.

-- Francois de Sales (1567-1622)


Friday, November 15, 2013


What is it about your life or mine that would make someone else want to be a follower of Jesus Christ, a person of faith, a part of a congregation?

The purpose of inviting other people to follow Jesus is to help them rediscover love -- God's love -- and to provide a community that gives sustained focus, energy, and resources to developing the spiritual life.  No other community besides the church has as its purpose the deepening of such elements of the human soul as hope, forgiveness, generosity, service, joy, peace, justice, gentleness.  Love is the key to unlocking the door to ultimate reality, and in the community of Christ we intentionally practice receiving God's love, loving God in return, and loving others.  We invite people into a life of love, surround them with the everlasting arms of God, and encourage them to do the same for others.  We love because God first loved us.

To bear witness to Christ involves more than inviting people with words.  It means living with such grace and integrity that our lives themselves become appealing to others.  The second chapter of Acts reports that people were drawn into the way of life of the followers of Christ.  They found Christian practice utterly compelling and irresistibly appealing.

Is this true for us?

-- Robert Schnase in Five Practices of Fruitful Living


Thursday, November 14, 2013


The One, of course, is God. And His demand of you is your absolute best, your utmost integrity. He calls you to apply His commands in all your decisions and interactions.

In a perfect world, this kind of excellence would always be recognized and amply compensated. It would earn you the highest respect from your colleagues and coworkers. It would anchor your job security and even promise you steady promotion through the ranks. But even when it doesn't -- even when it seems like no one is noticing -- there is no satisfaction like knowing that God can say of you, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21).

The next time you start to feel unappreciated, undervalued, and overlooked, take your feelings of inferiority to the Lord in prayer. Let Him be the One with the last word on how valuable you are. When you're pleasing Him, you're doing your job.

-- Joe Gibbs, from his blog GamePlanForLife.com


Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Jesus said, "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also."  (John 14:2-3)

Safety is not ultimately found in a secure place or a safe situation, but safety is only found in God... The truth is all of us… will die.  It may be when we're young; it may be when we're old.  But we will die.  There will be a day when some pastor or official stands in front of our friends and family and tries to comfort them.  At the moment of your death, the only thing that matters is your relationship with Jesus Christ.  He is still the last and the best hope for all of us; He is the only one who truly can keep us safe.
-- Nick Lillo

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Better than anyone in history, in any field or discipline, Jesus capitalized on the possibility in people -- the hidden potential inherent in all of us.  Talented entrepreneurs in our society see hidden potential in a product or service before anybody else does -- and as a result of pursuing their vision, cutting-edge companies emerge.  Expert athletic coaches often spot hidden potential in a high school football player or tennis player, and because of applied foresight, college sports dynasties are built.

But Jesus had a corner of the "potential" market.  He had an uncanny ability to look past the obvious flaws in people's lives and envision who they could become if the power of God were released in their lives.  Intrinsically, He just wondered about people.  Wondered what they could become.  Wondered how they might look in a transformed state.  Wondered what impact they could have if their lives were invested in things of eternal value.

He somehow saw the godly worshiper clothed as a worn, wearied prostitute.  The faithful disciple hiding inside a fisherman named Simon.  The hidden philanthropist in the life of a crooked tax collector named Zacchaeus.  The risk-taker in a cowardly Jewish ruler named Nicodemus.  What a fantastic gift He had for seeing what nobody else could see!

"All things are possible" was Jesus' mantra.  All things.  And countless lives were transformed because He chose to look past surface stuff to see what was ultimately possible.

-- Bill Hybels in Just Walk Across the Room


Monday, November 11, 2013


Dear Lord, today we honor our veterans, worthy men and women who gave their best when they were called upon to serve and protect their country. We pray that you will bless them, Lord, for their unselfish service in the continual struggle to preserve our freedoms, our safety, and our country’s heritage, for all of us. Bless them abundantly for the hardships they faced, for the sacrifices they made for their many different contributions to America’s victories over tyranny and oppression. We respect them, we thank them, we honor them, we are proud of them, and we pray that you will watch over these special people and bless them with peace and happiness. In Jesus’ name we pray; Amen.

-- Joanna Fuchs


Friday, November 1, 2013


By the quality of our inner lives I do not mean something characterized by ferocious intensity and strain.  I mean rather such a humble and genial devotedness as we find in the most loving of the saints.  I mean the quality which makes contagious Christians, makes people catch the love of God from you.

--  Evelyn Underhill


Thursday, October 31, 2013


If you had won a prize to have your home completely redecorated, how would you feel if the prize amounted to someone coming in and merely rearranging your old furniture?

When God promises you a new life, He doesn't mean that He'll just come in and reorganize the "old" you. That would be mere reformation. Instead, God is in the business of transformation and renewal. His plan is for you to become a new creature.

We can't understand our need for transformation without a deep recognition of the uselessness and deadness of the old self. If we always harbor the feeling that the old self is not all that bad and can somehow be salvaged, we will be looking for reformation instead of transformation. In God's process of renewal, we need to let go of the old in order to grasp the new.

"So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!"  (1 Corinthians 5:17 NRSV)

-- Unknown


Wednesday, October 30, 2013


"By Your words I can see where I’m going;
they throw a beam of light on my dark path.
I’ve committed myself and I’ll never turn back
from living by Your righteous order."  (Psalm 109:105 MSG)

Discernment is like driving an automobile at night; the headlights cast only enough light for us to see the next small bit of road immediately in front of us.  But that light is enough to take us home.

-- from Listening Hearts


Tuesday, October 29, 2013


"Do you, as the way opens, share Christ with people who do not know Christ?  Do you witness to your faith by letting your life speak?"  These questions, adapted from a Quaker covenant, remind us of the gentleness, simplicity, and persistence that underlies effective invitation.  Many people with no church home are respectful, curious, and open to spirituality in general.  Others are hostile, resentful, or suspicious of religion, perceiving church people to be offensive and hurtful.

Even people who are not particularly open to church are nevertheless open to their friends, and to the experiences that their friends value.  The most concrete and personal way God reaches out to invite people into faith is through friends who invite friends.

Most people who have no church have at least one friend who practices the faith, and that person provides the most likely pathway to the spiritual journey.  Are you that person?

-- Robert Schnase in Five Practices of Fruitful Living


Monday, October 28, 2013


"O sing to the Lord a new song," the psalmist cries; "sing to the Lord, all the earth" (Psalm 96:1). We moderns and postmoderns, committed as we are to the idea that whatever is most recent is best, are likely to think that the psalmist's call for "a new song" is a quest for novelty. I'm sure it's far more than that. His thinking, rather, is akin to the eighteenth-century hymnist and preacher Charles Wesley when he cried, "O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer's praise…!" Wesley wrote those words on the first anniversary of his transforming religious experience. Recalling all the wonders of God's work in his life, Wesley found one tongue, yes even a choir, inadequate. Such is the mood of the psalmist. All his vocabulary seems stunted and insufficient for the wonder he feels, so he yearns for a new way to declare the glory of God. He wants much more than new words, a fresh melody, or a different set of musical instruments; the poet wants a newness within his own person.

-- J. Ellsworth Kalas in Longing to Pray: How the Psalms Teach Us to Talk with God


Friday, October 25, 2013


Sometimes we feel some distance [from God]. How do we manage that? How do we live with the experience of distance from God? I think mainly it is a matter of memory. Remember the good times. Remember the close occasions. Remember the profound worship. Remember the Lord's table. Remember your baptism. Remember the bread and the cup. Remember your Christian friends. Remember the old [and new] songs and you will get through. It just hurts me to think of the young people who do not know a hymn, who do not know a single Scripture verse, and who have never sat next to the strong shoulder of a believing man or woman. How will they ever make it? You see, what we do here on Sunday, in case you’re wondering, is that we are making memories. What happens today [in worship] will be the only food you will have one of these days. But it will be enough. It will be enough. 

-- Fred Craddock in The Cherry Log Sermons


Thursday, October 24, 2013


You’ll never achieve the goals you don’t set.

The brain is a goal-seeking organism.  Setting a goal creates structural tension in your brain, which will seek to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be, who you are and who you want to become.  If you don’t set goals, your mind will become stagnant.  Goal setting is good stewardship of your right-brain imagination.  It’s also great for your prayer life. 

-- Mark Batterson in The Circle Maker


Wednesday, October 23, 2013


"Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:31-32 NRSV)
Forgiveness is giving up the hope of a different or better yesterday.
Forgiveness is one of the least understood concepts in the world. Most people seem to convert the word "forgive" into the word "condone." If we believed the two words to be synonymous, it would be virtually impossible to forgive. Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary definitions illustrate the problem.
Forgive… to cease to feel resentment against [an offender].
Condone… to treat as if trivial, harmless, or of no importance.
The implication that we might trivialize or easily dismiss a horrible event is clearly unacceptable. However, if we rely on the actual definition of forgive, we would be on the right track.
-- John W. James and Russell Friedman in When Children Grieve

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


God uses chronic pain and weakness, along with other afflictions, …for sculpting our lives. Felt weakness deepens dependence on Christ for strength each day. The weaker we feel, the harder we lean. And the harder we lean, the stronger we grow spiritually, even while our bodies waste away. To live with your 'thorn' uncomplainingly -- that is, sweet, patient, and free in heart to love and help others, even though every day you feel weak -- is true sanctification. It is true healing for the spirit. It is a supreme victory of grace. The healing of your sinful person thus goes forward, even though the healing of your mortal body does not. And the healing of persons is the name of the game so far as God is concerned.

-- J.I. Packer


Monday, October 21, 2013


Through disciples following Jesus, God transforms the world.

If everyone thinks that nothing can be done, then nothing will be done.  In way mysterious beyond our comprehension, God multiplies our personal efforts, interweaves them with the work of others, and uses them to transform the world.  This is fruitful living.

-- Robert Schnase in Five Practices of Fruitful Living


Friday, October 18, 2013


Character qualities in His children -- that's God's relentless quest. His strobe light will continue to penetrate our darkness. He won't quit His quest until He completes His checklist. And when will that be? When we rest in peace… and not one day sooner. Only then will His mission be accomplished in us. We have Him to thank for not giving up as we go through the process of developing character. Thanks, Lord.

-- Charles R. Swindoll in The Quest for Character


Thursday, October 17, 2013


They held no credentials, no official status, but the Spirit's coming had changed these ordinary people [-- the disciples]. From fear and uncertainty, they were freed and empowered to speak and act boldly of Christ's saving grace, and people followed. As we listen, learn, and follow, may others sense the Spirit near and recognize that we, too, have been with Jesus.

-- Roberta Porter in Alive Now, May/June 2000, published by The Upper Room, Nashville, TN.   Used with permission.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013


"Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." (Hebrews 10:24-25 RSV)

In community we catch the contagious quality of faith and hope.  Gathering stokes the flames of each member of the group.  We encourage one another.  (Encourage literally means to put courage into, to give heart!)  We become more in Christ because of the influence of friends.  We talk one another into things.  We take bolder action that we might otherwise avoid.  We follow Christ more eagerly.

-- Robert Schnase in Five Practices of Fruitful Living


Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Christ came to earth to be our bridge, and whoever crosses the bridge will live with God forever.  The apostle John put it this way in John 5:24: "Very truly I tell you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who send Me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life."

And until the day when you depart from your broken, fractured, earth-bound body, you can live with incredible confidence and boldness because, as my colleague Gene Appel says, you know who you are, you know where you are headed, and you know what you're becoming in the process.

-- Bill Hybels in Just Walk Across the Room


Monday, October 14, 2013


The Bible has been the Magna Charta of the poor and of the oppressed.  Down to modern times, no state has had a constitution in which the interests of the people are so largely taken into account; in which the duties, so much more than the privileges, of rulers are insisted upon, as that drawn up for Israel in Deuteronomy and Leviticus.  Nowhere is the fundamental truth, that the welfare of the state, in the long run, depends upon the righteousness of the citizen, so strongly laid down.  The Bible is the most democratic book in the world.

-- Thomas Huxley


Friday, October 11, 2013


I am, indeed, far from agreeing with those who think all religious fear barbarous and degrading and demand that it should be banished from the spiritual life.  Perfect love, we know, casteth out fear [1 John 4:18].  But so do several other things -- ignorance, alcohol, passion, presumption, and stupidity.  It is very desirable that we should all advance to that perfection of love in which we shall fear no longer; but it is very undesirable, until we have reached that stage, that we should allow any inferior agent to cast out our fear. 

-- C. S. Lewis in The World's Last Night


Thursday, October 10, 2013


When Mahatma Gandhi was a student, he became intrigued with the Bible.  Reading the Gospels touched his heart, so he considered becoming a convert.  Christianity seemed to offer real solutions to the caste system that divided India's population.  One Sunday he attended a church to seek the way of salvation.  An usher refused him a seat and said, "Go and worship with your own people."  Tragically, he left and never came back.  Gandhi said, "If Christians have caste differences also, I might as well remain a Hindu."

Ancient Israel suffered from a similar form of prejudice, a caste system of its own.  Religious Jews treated the Gentiles with scorn.  Gentiles were regarded as unclean -- diseased.  Any association with a Gentile was unlawful for a Jew. Israel mistakenly believed that Gentiles would not be included in God's family or inherit any of God's blessings.

Jesus changed all that!  He broke down the social barriers that separated Jews and Gentiles, and His life removed the great divide.  God invites both Jews and Gentiles into His house to worship together as one family… These two groups (and all believers) must learn how to share the wealth of God's great treasures.

"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace; in His flesh He has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us." (Ephesians 2:13-14 NRSV)."

-- Lenya Heitzig and Penny Pierce Rose in Pathway to God's Treasure: Ephesians


Wednesday, October 9, 2013


"Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me."

If I ever reach heaven I expect to find three wonders there;
first, to meet some I had not thought to see there;
second, to miss some I had expected to see there;
and third, the greatest wonder of all, to find myself there.

-- John Newton


Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Deep sobs --
That start beneath my heart
And hold my body in a grip that hurts.
The lump that swells inside my throat
Brings pain that tries to choke.
Then tears course down my cheeks --
I drop my head in my so empty hands
Abandoning myself to deep dark grief
And know that with the passing time
Will come relief.
That though the pain may stay
There soon will come a day
When I can say her name and be at peace.

-- Norah Leney in In a Lifetime


Monday, October 7, 2013


Grace strikes at unexpected times, [Paul] Tillich suggests: when we are in pain, feeling restless, empty, alone, estranged, or when we feel disgust, weakness, or hostility.  It strikes us when other things don't work, when we feel directionless and useless, when compulsions reign, and darkness overshadows.  When the ordinariness of life grinds us down, or the vacuity of the world's promises leaves us empty, when we finally realize our churning and churning is taking us nowhere fast, in such moments, grace comes to us like a wave of light in the darkness, and we perceive a voice saying, "You are accepted."

"We don't know the name of it at the time; there will be much to learn later," Tillich writes.  We don't have to promise anything at the time, for in that moment we are fundamentally the recipients of promise.  We don't have to give anything; only to receive what is given.  Our only and singular task is to accept that we are accepted.

You are loved.  You are loved. You are loved.

Can you accept that?

-- Robert Schnase in Five Practices of Fruitful Living


Friday, October 4, 2013


"Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."  (Romans 12:2 NLT)

God's will is easy to find... if we want it. Really, the only people who miss His will are those who have no use for it. The months and years may show we've taken a strange, round-about way, but if our hearts are right, our feet will never go astray. We will know what God wants us to do. I cannot tell you how you will know, but I can tell you that when you have to know (and not necessarily before) you will know.

-- David Roper in Seeing Through


Thursday, October 3, 2013


"Since God did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for the sake of all of us, then can we not expect that with Christ God will freely give us all His gifts?" (Romans 8:32)

"Freely give" means to give lavishly.  What do I need today?  Strength?  Peace?  Patience?  Heavenly joy?  Industry?  Good temper?  Power to help others?  Inward contentment?  Courage?   Whatever it be, my God will lavish it upon me.

-- Amy Carmichael in Edges of His Ways


Wednesday, October 2, 2013


When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.

-- Henri Nouwen


Tuesday, October 1, 2013


The desperate man sits in the corner of the church assembly.  Dry mouth, moist palms.  He scarcely moves.  He feels out of place in a room of disciples, but where else can he go?  He just violated every belief he cherishes.  Hurt every person he loves.  Spent a night doing what he swore he’d never do.  And now, on Sunday he sits and stares.  He doesn’t speak.  If these people knew what I did….

Scared, guilty, and alone.

He could be an addict, a thief, a child-beater, a wife-cheater.

He could be a she -- single, pregnant, confused.  He could be any number of people, for any number of people come to God’s people in his condition -- hopeless, hapless, helpless.

How will the congregation react?  What will he find?  Criticism or compassion?  Rejection or acceptance?  Raised eyebrows or extended hands?

-- Max Lucado in Facing Your Giants


Monday, September 30, 2013


Hope is symbolized in Christian iconography by an anchor.  And what does an anchor do? It keeps the ship on course when wind and waves rage against it.  But the anchor of hope is sunk in heaven, not on earth.

-- Gregory Floyd in A Grief Unveiled


Friday, September 27, 2013


Don’t make the mistake of Florence Chadwick.  In 1952 she attempted to swim the chilly ocean waters between Catalina Island and the California shore.  She swam through foggy weather and choppy seas for fifteen hours.  Her muscles began to cramp, and her resolve weakened.  She begged to be taken out of the water, but her mother, riding in a boat alongside, urged her not to give up.  She kept trying but grew exhausted and stopped swimming.  Aids lifted her out of the water and into the boat.  They paddled a few more minutes, the mist broke, and she discovered the shore was less than a half mile away.  “All I could see was the fog,” she explained at a news conference.  “I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.”

Take a long look at the shore that awaits you.  Don’t be fooled by the fog...  The finish may be only strokes away.  God may be, at this moment, lifting his hand to signal Gabriel to grab the trumpet.  Angels may be assembling, saints gathering, demons trembling.  Stay at it!  Stay in the water.  Stay in the race.  Stay in the fight.  Give grace, one more time.  Be generous, one more time.  Teach one more class, encourage one more soul, swim one more stroke.

-- Max Lucado in Facing Your Giants


Thursday, September 26, 2013


Lutheran professor and author Martin Marty described his professional life this way: "I go to work because I have a job that’s part of a career, which is part of a profession that I do because of my vocation that is the shape of my life."  Marty had grasped the big picture, his calling, which put everything else in place.  Somehow the daily tasks required -- in his case, grading papers, lectures, committee meeting, writing, and research -- fit together as rungs of a ladder leading all the way up to vocation, a word taken from the Latin for "calling."  Marty went on to say that a sense of calling may be the most important step for any who seek fulfillment and meaning.

Marty was following the pattern of Martin Luther himself, who saw a potential calling in any kind of work.  "Even dirty and unpleasant work, such as shoveling manure or washing diapers, is pure and holy work if it comes from a pure heart," he said.  Luther urged ordinary folk -- farmers, milkmaids, butchers, and cobblers -- to perform their work as if God Himself was watching.

-- Philip Yancey in Rumors of Another World


Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Blessed are you with means,
          who share generously with the poor.
Blessed are you who are full now,
          after sharing your bread with the hungry.
Blessed are you who are laughing now,
          since first you comforted the lonely
          and the sorrowful, the sick and the dying.
And blessed are you when people call you foolish
          or naïve or a religious nut
          when you try to bring the Reign of God to your home
          or your neighbor-hood or your work place,
for you will be doing….the Gospel!.  

-- Father Richtsmeier